Scanning the Auto Blogosphere

Hello again, car fans. Let’s get one bit of bad auto news that’s been widely reported over the last week out of the way pronto: GM posted a loss of almost $10 billion for the fourth quarter and over $30 billion for 2008. Ouch. That news probably contributed to Thomas Friedman’s suggestion that the U.S. government put money into start-ups instead of bailing out the Big Three, in which he called GM “a giant wealth-destruction machine,” but GM’s response, comparing Friedman to Sir Thomas More and calling him “a wealthy scribe” (does anyone at GM know what newspaper reporters get paid?), was just plain weird.

The Car Connection’s story rejecting a TechCrunch post suggesting Steve Jobs get put in charge of a merged Chrysler and GM was just plain funny and has a great title, but its inclusion of links to 50 Cent and Britney Spears info on the Internet Movie Database and Tyra Banks and Gillian Anderson videos, not to mention a swipe at Paris Hilton, seemed pretty gratuitous. Of course, as you should know from the video link at the top of this post, I’m not above the occasional gratuitous link myself.

I did manage to find some good news and evidence that optimism has survived our current economic difficulties this week. Hyundai has added a Plus to its well-received Assurance plan, meaning that the automaker will make up to 3 months of car-loan payments for any Hyundai new-car buyer who loses his or her income. The company hopes that will give customers time to get a new job and back on their feet, but if things don’t work out, customers can still return the car after those three months with no credit-rating impact.

Better Place has taken an interesting approach to electric cars and already struck deals with a number of national and state governments, including Israel, Denmark, California, and Hawaii, to build battery exchange stations as well as charging points. It hopes Americans will be much more open to driving electric vehicles if they don’t have to buy the batteries, which are a big component of the cost of an EV and have a limited lifespan. Better Place plans to charge based on mileage driven and keep its customers using the latest, longest driving range batteries in their BP-compatible cars.

A California dairy has taken a big step to reduce its dependence on imported petroleum that should also lower the chance that visitors will accidentally step in a cow patty on its premises. Hilarides Dairy has converted two 18-wheelers to run on biomethane made from the dairy’s abundant supply of manure. Bacteria breaks the manure down, impurities are removed, and the methane is pressurized into compressed natural gas. The dairy hopes to convert five pick-up trucks to run on biomethane, too.

And last but not least, I wanted to share an idea from Jil McIntosh, an auto blogger who was inspired by the story of Sam McLaughlin, founder of General Motors of Canada. She suggests that rich auto execs could help put people to work and boost the economy by spending some of their generous earnings on personal projects – a new garage on their property, maybe, or even better a local senior center or library – and making sure to hire local workers and use local raw materials. In the words of the challenge McIntosh advises auto execs to pass along to other bigwigs:

Each project may only directly help a small number of people. But if every one of us, who were fortunate enough in the good times, gets just a handful of people working, that number grows. I challenge all of you to do your part, one local job at a time.

Sounds like good thinking, no?

Anything you’d like to see get more – or less – coverage here on the CarGurus Blog?
Let me know.

-Steve Halloran

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